CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The deep political division in this country finds its way to the University of Cincinnati as a professor finds himself in a battle over words and ideology.
The university has put on administrative leave an engineering professor who used the term “Chinese virus” when talking about the coronavirus. The communication went viral.
“I really just want him to apologize,” said Evan Solzing, a UC engineering student. “I want a sincere apology for his comment.”
Sotzing is referring to a comment Professor John Ucker made to him via email after he told Ucker he was quarantined due to the coronavirus and couldn't make it to lab.
The professor responded, "For students testing positive for the chinese (sic) virus, I will give no grade."
“I was shocked at first that anyone in power, any professor, would say that because of how xenophobic it is and how much of a racist comment it is,” Sotzing said
So, he posted the email, it went viral and thousands of people weighed in, demanding the professor be ousted.
UC’s College of Engineering has about 6,000 students with hundreds of professors. Ucker is an adjunct professor, or part-time professor, teaching two classes in “soil” to about 40 students.
“I would prefer to think all the professors here are very broadminded and they wouldn’t really generalize in that sense, so it does bother me a little bit,” Anusha Prakash said. She is a student of Asian descent who says she too is offended.
Local 12 spoke to a Chinese professor who said, "There are dumb people everywhere."
We also caught up with Professor John Weidner, the dean of Engineering and Applied Science.
“There was no need for it, it was very insensitive.” Dr. Weidner says the professor is now on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation," Weidner said.
Local 12 asked, “Are you comfortable having a faculty member under you who’s using these terms?”
Weidner answered, “It depends on his intent and his context. So, that’s what the process will determine. I don’t think we can take the word itself and say the faculty member should no longer be on campus.”
There was a smattering of social media comments supporting the use of the term "chinese virus,” but most called the term and Ucker racist.
Ucker did not reply to our repeated attempts to reach him.
University President Neville Pinto tweeted late Friday afternoon, “There is no place for bigotry in our community or any other. We are better than this. Every bearcat deserves to feel welcomed, respected and supported. Greatness starts with inclusion. And inclusion starts with each of us.”
The university expects the investigation into the email to last about a week.